“He impressed me at the camp,” says Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson. “He seemed to get better and better as the camp went on. His hockey IQ and his strength in draws caught my attention. He possesses some things you really look for in a young player.”
Selanne would have been at Calgary’s rookie camp last year, but the 15-year-old’s invite was mixed up in his father’s fan mail.
“(The Hitmen) invited me here before last season, but I was in Finland,” Eetu Selanne said to Scott Fischer of the Calgary Sun. “When I came back, it was put in the wrong pile of mail.
“It was put in my dad’s fanmail. And there’s so much of it. I couldn’t find it until a year later. I looked at the date and it was the same day, but a year later.
“I said ‘this is bad.’ I missed the camp.”
He said he couldn’t believe he missed out on a chance to come to a junior hockey camp, even though he would have been too young to play last season.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes also invited Selanne to their rookie camp this year. He was originally going to choose Lethbridge over Calgary; however, when the Hitmen got wind of this, they listed him to ensure he couldn’t suit up for another WHL club.
The 5-foot-9, 154-pound forward’s last name is what ultimately grabbed the attention of Hitmen head scout Don Bonar. But as he learned more about Selanne's on-ice talent, he discovered he possesses some enticing hockey tools.
"Bloodlines is always a good thing, I think," Bonar said to Aaron Vickers of NHL.com. "It doesn't guarantee anything, but one thing it does guarantee away from the rink is that you get an opportunity to play hockey at a pretty good level. You do get the opportunity to talk to your dad about things, about the game. If he has any questions I'm sure he would ask Teemu, 'What do you do in this situation?' There's a huge benefit in that."
Bonar made it clear the name on the back of Selanne's sweater wasn't the only reason he was invited Calgary's camp.
"It's nice, but really he's here on his own merits," Bonar said of Eetu. "He's come a long way, which I give him credit for. He's here on his own merits, his own game. The fact that his dad is Teemu, that's a bonus for him."
When the camp was all said and done, Selanne convinced Calgary’s head coach that he has the potential to play in the Dub down the road.
“If he continues to develop like he has, I think he can one day play in this league,” says Williamson. “He has some of the tools that you need and most importantly he has the smarts. It will be a process, but that’s how it is with every player. He just has to keep on working hard.”
Selanne’s father would prefer him to go down the American college route, but he knows Calgary has a strong major junior development program through former Hitmen and Anaheim Ducks teammate Ryan Getzlaf.
"He would like me to play college because he thinks even if I don't make it as far [as the NHL], I can still get a good education and play at the same time," Eetu Selanne told NHL.com. "But he also likes how the Calgary Hitmen do their program after talking to Ryan Getzlaf about it, because he gave him a lot of advice about the program and how it works."
As for Selanne's immediate hockey future, he will be back playing in California this upcoming season. He has committed to suiting up with the Los Angeles U16 Jr. Kings.
“Last season I played for the (Anaheim) Jr. Ducks 16 AAA, but this year I’m going to play for the (LA) Kings 16 AAA,” he told NHL.com.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen
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